Episode Five with Raj Panjabi
“Illness is universal. Access to healthcare is not. That shouldn’t be true in the 21st century”.
In this episode we focus on health equity. Every day people are dying of entirely preventable diseases simply because they are poor, or because they live too far from medical care. Children die from diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. A staggering number of women and babies don’t survive childbirth. Paul Farmer, who we heard from in Episode 1, has a name for this – Stupid Deaths. Every time we let someone die of a condition we know how to treat, that’s a stupid death. Paul’s words are a reminder that in the time of a pandemic, poverty is the deadliest pathogen of all.
According to the World Health Organisation, half of the world’s population cannot access essential health services. That’s nearly 4 billion people. Millions of the most vulnerable families are forced to choose between healthcare and food. With all the wealth and prosperity and technology we have created as a civilisation, it’s nothing short of a moral outrage.
Raj Panjabi wants to change that. Raj is the founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, which brings lifesaving primary healthcare to some of the world’s most remote communities. Many healthcare systems are built around hospitals, and most hospitals are in cities. But in Liberia, as in many parts of the world, for rural communities the nearest medical care can be days away, by foot. So, what if we could bring the healthcare to the people instead? That was the question Raj and his colleagues asked. And their answer was to examine an old idea – community health workers – and reinvent it for the 21st century. Raj is now taking his community-based healthcare model beyond Liberia. He has a big vision for what this can look like across the world. And how it could help in the fight against COVID-19.
Reimagine is a new podcast about people who are inventing the future. Presented by Oxford Answers and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. New episodes on Thursdays.